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Florida Gov. Rick Scott stalls debate over opponent's fan

By Eric Bradner, CNN
updated 4:05 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rick Scott refuses to participate in a debate because his opponent had a fan on stage
  • The Florida governor eventually relents, joining the debate after seven minutes
  • Former Gov. Charlie Crist, set up a small electric fan underneath his podium

Gov. Rick Scott will appear on Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer".

Washington (CNN) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott refused to go onstage for the first seven minutes of a debate Wednesday night, because his opponent had a fan.

No, not a rowdy supporter in the audience. An actual electric fan.

Scott's Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, had set up a small fan underneath his podium, apparently trying to keep himself from sweating under the Broward College stage's lights. Scott saw the fan, a prop that often accompanies Crist at public appearances, as a violation of the debate's rules and said he wouldn't participate.

The moderators tried to explain the disagreement while Republicans in the audience chided Crist for breaking rules -- at least as Scott saw them -- against props on stage.

"We have an extremely peculiar situation right now," moderator Elliott Rodriguez, a local news anchor, said as the broadcast started.

"Are we really going to debate a fan?" Crist said while standing alone on stage.

Several minutes later, Scott relented and joined the debate.

"That has to be the most unique beginning to any debate," Rodriguez said as Scott walked onto the stage.

From there, the moderators largely tried to ignore the episode.

And on Thursday, Scott tried explain why his opponent needed a fan in the first place.

"I think he was sweating and he needed a fan. I'm surprised he didn't try to ask for dry ice," Scott said.

That could have actually been a solution to the standoff that took up the first seven minutes of the debate because Scott's protest flamed over Crist's apparent disregard for a previous agreement that electronic devices would be banned from the stage

"I think he was probably worried about his track record," Scott said, bringing up his campaign talking point that more than 832,000 people lost their jobs during Crist's four-year term as governor during the Great Recession.

But it had already sparked a social media firestorm, with Twitter users launching the hashtag "#fangate," and a mock Twitter handle devoted solely to Crist's fan -- @CCristFan -- had its moment in the sun.

After the debate, the real Crist weighed in.

"#fangate - what a night!" he tweeted. "Now, let's get back to the issues that matter to Florida."

But fangate was all some people could think about.

Many didn't know what to make of it.

Democrats wanted to make sure no one missed it.

Tampa Bay Times political writer Adam Smith wanted to know what Scott's advisers could have been thinking.

You can watch video of the beginning of the debate here.

Update: An earlier version of this story misstated how many jobs Gov. Rick Scott said were lost in Florida while Crist was governor.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

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